Guest Room

Five simple ways to maximize space and make your visitors feel at home this holiday season.

The holidays are nearly upon us. Doorbells will be ringing, sidewalks will need to be shoveled and homes will be lined with boots. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time to get your home ready for visitors. Karen Hayes of Karen Hayes Interiors in Willoughby offers up five simple techniques to ensure your home is inviting, cozy and spacious for dinner parties, overnight guests or even that neighbor dropping by for some eggnog around the fireplace.

Simplify your decorating: Try to decorate for the whole holiday season at once by using sophisticated colors such as rust or cinnamon, chocolate brown and touches of black by adding splashes of color in place mats or table runners. “Just bring in some different accents,” Hayes says. Some examples include using pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn to decorate for Halloween, then keeping those items and just adding mums to complete the look for Thanksgiving, she says. For Christmas, Hayes likes to add wrought-iron candlesticks, touches of gold and some plaid. “There is no rule out there that says it has to be red and green,” she says. “I think red and green is kind of boring for Christmas.”

Use all your space: For those short on space, Hayes says there is no need to rearrange furniture. Just make sure there is plenty of room throughout your home for Christmas trees or other holiday decorations that coax guests to move around the house. “There are several trees in my house, decorated by theme for different rooms,” she says. “My guests just love to wander through my house looking at everything.” And having your guests walk around is key to utilizing all your space.

Set up serving stations: Hayes recommends setting up serving stations in different places as a way to prompt people not to camp out in one room. “You can have hors d’oeuvres here and something else there,” she says. No matter the size of your home, guests can be guided by where you place the food and where you place the bar. Seating arrangements, she concedes, can be tough. “Entertaining always does bring up its own set of problems,” she says. But household furniture such as an ottoman, which primarily serves as a footrest on a day-to-day basis, makes for an extra place to sit in a pinch.

Focus on small flourishes: Since your main goal is making guests feel welcome in your home, extra touches — from fresh flowers in the bathroom to decorating the front porch with gifts — show that you care. Yes, we said the bathroom. Hayes notes that everyone eventually will walk into that part of your home. “There are so many sweet things you can do in a bathroom,” Hayes says, offering a list of items she recommends such as holiday towels, figurines and potpourri. These unexpected touches emphasize your desire to make your guests feel at home and relaxed. To make guests feel special, Hayes gives each a small gift. “If it’s a dinner party I will have a gift for them on their plate,” she says. Giving gifts such as ornaments or using toys as a dining room table centerpiece adds to the festive mood, Hayes says.

Cater to the senses: For guests staying overnight, Hayes likes to use seasonal greens in the guest room, pine preferably. “The minute they walk in the room, they can smell the pine,” she says. If the room includes a four-poster bed, Hayes suggests draping artificial greens around the top and taking ribbon and letting it cascade down the corners. “It is super simple,” she says. “But it feels so special.” Pillows, books, teacups and extra blankets in the holiday theme also make the room inviting. Another key to a successful gathering is the lighting. “Absolutely dim lighting,” Hayes says. “Everyone looks better in it.” Hayes says just using all candles to light your party can be a wonderful setting. “Tons of candles are so romantic, so pretty and so relaxing,” she says, adding that the effect can be successfully executed on a small budget. “You don’t have to go out and spend a million dollars on candles. Different heights are more important than having them all at the same level.”

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